Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rene Angstrom: Anders Loves Backgrounds

Rene Engstrom, who draws Anders Loves Maria, has a great little post on backgrounds that I wanted to alert the great world of comicdom to.
For many it can be a pain to have to think of what to put in all that dang negative space. I totally used to over do backgrounds, unnecessarily. Your backgrounds should have a purpose. Generally they are used to set the atmosphere. You see these a lot in the comic's establishing panels. How to use panels are important, but also what you use for backgrounds is important.
I used to love doing backgrounds, still do, in fact, but I think thats the inker, the technician in me loving doing the work and getting a world that looks and feels real. I used to totally feel cheated by artists who consistantly didn't do the work to get the backgrounds right, or worse, didn't put in backgrounds at all.

And yet, I find myself analyzing who really puts in the work, and who is just better at suggesting the backgrounds. It was easy to get spoiled by someone like Marshall Rogers who had a background as an architect building a real Gotham City in his head and bringing it to life in Detective Comics. And yet, when I think back to the old Ross Andru Spider-men that I bought in the 1970's, I know now that he was a stickler for getting the backgrounds right, (i.e. showing Spider-man swinging the right way past the New York Public Library when he was going uptown rather than downtown) but somehow the world never felt nearly as real to me as Daredevil's New York. Mignola's Hellboys are perhaps some of the best work of suggested backgrounds since Milt Caniff. I totally buy the world that he's in, and I have only to start trying to dissect the backgrounds to realize how little information he is actually giving us.

But it works.

I remember John Byrne's worlds as being very real in his X-Men, and it was the Terry Austin inks on both that book and the Marshall Rogers Batmans that made me a stickler for using the ruler and getting backgrounds right, but now the storyteller in me is thinking that its a matter of focusing on the trees rather than the forest. My work on the Carnival pages is making me think just how much can be implied rather than said, but when you say, make sure that it really says "something". Marshall wanted his Gotham to be an actual character in his Batman books, and I am looking for the same thing in my story, but that doesn't mean putting in everything in every panel. Perhaps the hardest thing to do is to actually edit yourself in the drawing process.

And without looking back at those X-Men, I wonder just how much work John did on those backgrounds. Did he just imply it so well that my 14 year old brain filled in the Savage Land around Cyclops and Storm? I'm resisting the temptation to go find out.


Marty Nozz said...

Backgrounds are so crucial, and I'm so horrible at them. I have been very guilty of neglecting my backgrounds and not giving them all the detail I should. I want to say it's time constraints, but I'm sure there's a laziness factor.

I'm big on fight scenes due to being a life long martial artist. When I lay out a fight in my head, the envirornment is a factor. Is there anything the characters can trip over? Is it a confined space? All important.

A pox on your post! Now I've got to work harder.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

I know, doesn't it just piss you off when you realize just how smart some artists are with balancing the background to the fore? man, it just works sometimes....

all mignola's fault really.

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